High maintenance

Here’s a response to my last entry: One reader mentioned to me last week that it was “confusing”. I’m assuming that he meant confused by the various different streams of consciousness I was trying to reconcile into one small piece loosely connected by the theme of scars, and also how it tied into what I was currently feeling last week when I posted that. In both cases, I’m with you. I guess my only real explanation, observing in hindsight, is that, I was taking several different emotions and ideas and trying to run with them all, tossing every remotely related thought into one garbled mess of unrelated (but also related?) feelings. Or maybe just a collection of the conflicting emotions that leave their mark, even when you think you don’t feel anything.

I don’t know. I guess I can’t really explain myself. I’m sort of ADD, remember?

Anyway. Moving on.

I have a lot of different topics of musing that are going through my head at the moment, mostly spurred by — but not entirely related to — a long and fairly deep conversation I embarked on with an old ex last night, but I guess the prevailing thought at the moment is something a friend of mine once flippantly mentioned to me while we were in that nebulous stage in a relationship called “talking”. The context? He was talking about all the gifts he had to buy his ex just to keep her attention engaged on him. I was retorting that gifts were a nice accoutrement to a relationship, but not something I considered absolutely imperative to feeling loved and cared for by my significant other. Then I puffed out my chest and (dare I say with some pride) declared that I was “low-maintenance.”

My friend replied, “Nah. ALL girls are high maintenance.

What Pat meant by that (I think) was that, even if a girl isn’t stereotypically (read: materially high maintenance) — you know, overly concerned with the frills and spoils of a man’s attentions, not to mention the way she carries her own self, quick to leave if those standards are not met — she’s high maintenance in some other way, emotionally or intellectually or physically or what have you.

Easily daunted, self-second-guessing soul that I am, I sat there crestfallen and sullen, my declarations immediately quelled. But what he said stuck, and even though we never ended up dating, I always in every consequent relationship I did enter occasionally pitted myself against what he had said, wondering whether I was being “high-maintenance” when I requested “A” to occasionally go shopping with me (not that often, I swear); or that “B” contribute to my weekend chores like washing my dishes and helping with laundry (mine and his) and Swiffering my floor; or that “C” be willing to miss the Super Bowl to help me move into my New York apartment — not just carrying up furniture but also creating a home for myself and, by extension, us*. Or when I desire that “A” consider my dog to be more than just a dog, but an actual member my family; or that “B” genuinely want to do the things I suggest, not just acquiesce for the sake of making me “happy”; or when I was hoping against hope that “C” would “Grow the f*** up!” on his own without my having to oversee his growth.

I guess the epiphany here comes from me reading back over this and thinking, Christ, who is this again? What a demanding bitch.**

When I was younger, I used to be so overly opposed to being of that “high-maintenance” breed — not to mention having to feel dependent on that person for gratification by virtue of asking them for things like emotional support — that I used to shirk my responsibilities to my own self and happiness for the sake of not having to burden someone else with my needs. Part of this obviously comes from my not knowing at the time how to be truly independently happy without having to lean on a significant other, for the lack of solid autonomy coming from within myself (not a sin that’s limited to myself, I think). Part of it comes from lack of trust that the other person would stick around if I asked for any additional duties or commitment from them. Yet another part of it comes from not always knowing what I wanted myself.

Then there’s just not knowing how to get what you want. I did and still do sell myself short a lot, always hoping but never quite believing that that perfect something — whether it be in love, or career, or, whatever — that I’m looking for is out there, and logically reasoning with myself that I should be grateful for the things that do come my way and capitalize on those opportunities as much as I can.

So following that line of thought, maybe not knowing what I want could also make me more “high maintenance”, because the demands I make aren’t targeted† and, thus, aren’t efficient. At the same time, at 28, I feel like I have a much better idea of what works for me. I’ve also lost a lot of my patience for deal breakers. By that virtue, I’d like to think I’ve gotten a lot better at cutting through the bullshit, and being clear up front and personal about what I need and what I won’t deal with. That way, no one’s wasting their time and patience. Isn’t that so much better than trying to excuse shortcomings, hoping that they’ll “get better” later, or making a mental note to address them when the relationship gets more serious, often times never getting around to it, and having this unspoken pebble in the shoe become one big raging boulder of passive aggression and grudge-holding instead?

Granted the honesty angle can be daunting and intimidating, which is understandable. Lately I’ve been in the practice of very honestly telling the men I’m interested that, Hey, I’m interested, and are they interested in dating me too? Because if not let’s stop hanging out. Obviously (fortunately and unfortunately), there’s no tell-all answer, but it’s an important conversation to get out of the way, right? Nevertheless, I’m met with a lot of mixed reactions. I’ve been accused of “trying to make things too serious” for asking one guy “friend” who I was intimate with and going on a lot of very date-like quasi-dates with what his ultimate intentions were with me. I’ve been told that, Yes, there is interest — erroneously and declared only because of the fear of things ending. And I’m sure I’ve been perceived as selfish.

Of course, the ultimate interpretation of all the latter is that they were never, in the end, really worth my time at all. But the ones who do step up to the tasks I’ve presented? I think they’re worth the investment††.

I suppose the practice of laying all my “demands” out on the table from the get-go and as they arise situationally could be considered “high-maintenance”. But really, isn’t it just about being honest?

* * * * * * *

FOOTNOTES:

* Before I sound too unreasonable, let me just explain that this was mostly a timing thing, rather than my genuinely wanting C to miss the Super Bowl. I’d been homeless for two months, and I wasn’t about to let the Super Bowl delay my move, especially since it was a Sunday move, meaning I’d have to wait a full work week before I could even think about moving duties again, and especially since he barely paid attention to the sport for the entire rest of the season. I rest my case.

** Actually, now that I read over this section again for my final edit, it doesn’t sound too bad. So there’s more testament to the (high?/low?-maintenance) person I am now.

† This reminds me of one particular session of my Audience Insight class in J-school. Basically, the idea was that for your publication — be it a magazine or a newspaper or what have you — you have your Tier 1, main target audience, embodied and personified by a single archetype — we’re talking, literally, “female, 28, resides in New York, works in journalism and earns a salary of XX, giving her the sufficient means to purchase the goods at the price point presented by this lifestyle magazine”. This is followed by your Tiers 2 and 3, secondary audiences who also have an interest in the topic(s) you cover and happen to tune in to the content of your medium. But even though a significant amount of your sales may come from Tiers 2 and 3, you must focus your publication on the Tier 1 audience — or more specifically, the target persona. The reasons? They’d include thematic consistency, maintaining relevance to readers, limiting the scope of topics you can cover (very important), and finally the fact that many Tiers 2 and 3 audience members aspire to become the Tier 1. Case in point: Not all tweens and teens who read Seventeen Magazine are aged 17, but they still read for various reasons, like they have 17-envy, or they’re im/mature for their age, or they just really, really like boys. Same goes for Food Network: not everyone who tunes in to the channel is a full-blown foodie, but most people appreciate an ample serving of food porn. As Professor Rachel Mersey Davis stressed over and over again: “You don’t want to cast too wide a net, else you’ll catch nothing at all.”

†† I’d like to add here, though, that I’m not in the habit of expecting people to give me things they’re not already willing to give. Also, please don’t think I think that contributions to the happiness of a relationship are entirely what I ask for and he provides — it’s a two-way street, obviously, and I’m just as inclined to consider what I’m willing to do and how willing I am to do those things for a significant other in the overarching scheme of whether I truly want to be with him.

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3 thoughts on “High maintenance

  1. Pingback: Not good enough | Love Games, or the Lack Thereof

  2. i completely respect the honesty up front approach. i noticed guys who are worth your time and respect you and have good intentions will step up to the plate/challenge. whereas the guys who are wishy-washy, douchy, playerish, or unsure respond with the statements you stated above. “whoa, why are you looking at things so serious so soon // i just want to see where things go, and we can take it from there // i like you, but not looking for anything serious, but that could change… ”

    granted, there are definitely cases where not ready guys turn into ready guys, but more often not they usually stay not. so it’s a great way to weed them out in my opinion.

  3. “whoa, why are you looking at things so serious so soon // i just want to see where things go, and we can take it from there // i like you, but not looking for anything serious, but that could change… ” — definitely all lines i’ve heard before. reading through these almost made me nostalgiac… but… not.

    it’s definitely tough when you want YOUR love story to embody that elusive exception to the rule. i think the problem is that everyone secretly wants that. but it’s kind of like this metaphor of children chasing butterflies i heard today in regards to investors chasing yield. when everyone is chasing one butterfly (or everyone is chasing yield, or everyone is chasing the one unavailable bachelor who’ll turn bachelor for you), then the odds are obviously against you.

    practically, it’s just better to find the product that’s right from the get go.

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